Four years ago, if we’d read that gospel and tried to kind of get into the mindset of this leper, this person who was declared to be unclean, who had to say that out loud when he’d walk around the community, he would have to keep this long distance from everybody else – ringing a bell, calling out that he was unclean. We would have some sense of that. We would be able to kind of capture images that we might have seen in documentaries or from historical recreations, but we wouldn’t have experienced that in the depths of who we are. But in March 2020, of course, all of that changed when we went into that first lockdown and all of us experienced this deep sense of fear and anxiety. We didn’t know if our neighbors were infected. We didn’t know who was clean and unclean. And so we all went into our little houses and we kept ourselves locked away, isolated, separated. And even when we longed to be with someone who was sick, you know, there were so many stories at that time of people who were dying in nursing homes and in hospitals, and no one could go to see them.
And so often you saw those images of people standing behind glass windows, looking in at their relatives, just longing to be there, to touch them, just to experience that moment of being able to say goodbye, to offer that farewell, or even just that sense of our own family and friends that we weren’t able to go into to be with them. And we had to make do with video calls, and we had to make do with watching the Mass celebrated for us on our TV screens or mobile phones or on our computers. We got a sense then, of what it felt like to be unclean, what it felt like to be isolated and separated from the people that we loved. So I think this gospel suddenly begins to take on a different shape for us when we hear this story of this man who is just crying out for that sense of connection, he wants to be healed. Yes, but above all, he wants Jesus to restore him to his family and friends, that he can finally be back with the people that he hasn’t seen.
But who knows how long, how many years he’s been separated and isolated. And that his deepest longing – as it is for us, that longing that we might be in the presence of others, that we might be ourselves before others because we have lots of interactions in our lives. We have lots of encounters with other people. You know, we might talk to the person that’s serving us the groceries or whatever – those interactions, but we want something more than, “how are you? Fine, thanks. How are you?” We want that depth of that encounter. A place where I can just be myself. There’s no more masks. All of the the BS detectors have been set aside, and we’re simply able to be in that place of vulnerability, that place where we are known and loved for who we are, warts and all, sin and all addictions and dysfunctions, and all of the things that cripple us and prevent us from experiencing that fullness of life, that in that space and in that place, that we know that we’re accepted.
It’s such a beautiful gift, such a wonderful moment to to know that there are others who simply accept us. And churches are meant to be that. We’re meant to be places where we’re able to share with one another where people do feel safe to be themselves. But so often our churches have become places where we simply pretend like in every other sphere of our lives. We simply continue to present the best face. You know, we get dressed up in our best clothes, and we continue to pretend that, yeah, everything’s fine, everything’s together, everything’s jim and dandy. But what would it be like if we could be in that place where the Lord could share that same vulnerability that he had with that man in the gospel? He was just standing there. “If you want to, you can cure me.” And that Jesus would speak in the depths of who we are, and we would truly hear and listen to Jesus say, not just generically. Jesus doesn’t say anything that’s generic. And one of the reasons that the church always insists on reconciliation being personal.
That direct encounter with the Lord through the ministry of the priest is that Jesus doesn’t forgive sins of the crowd. He teaches the crowd. He feeds the crowd. But in terms of that forgiveness of sins, in every encounter in the Gospels, it’s always one on one. It’s always the person just being there in their vulnerability and Jesus reaching out his hand and healing them. And he will say the same to us today that he said to that man “Of course I want to… Of course I want to… Of course I want to be cured. Be healed.” Jesus is always offering that gift to us, wherever we’re hurting, wherever we’ve been wounded by life, wherever we grieve, Jesus is there for us. He’s there to immediately offer that peace, that love, that tenderness, whatever we didn’t receive as children, whatever we missed when we were growing up, whatever hurts that we’ve experienced by the actions of another person or the actions of ourselves, Jesus wants to bring peace and healing and new life to us today.
So Jesus, I pray for this community. I pray that each of us might just know in the depths of who we are, who you are, that we might make space for your love today, that you might indeed be there before us, and that we would let you see us, and that we would let you love us. Jesus, you know where we hurt. You know those spaces and places in the depths of us that long for connection, that long to be released from the isolation that we’ve placed ourselves in Jesus? I invite you now to come in this church of the Holy Spirit. I pray the spirit, you will bring your mighty breath of new life, that you will restore and renew us, and that this voice of Jesus saying, of course I want to be healed, that that will not be a vague message from the past, just strange words that we recite in church. But there will be words of truth that are spoken to us, words that bring us freedom, words that help us to let go of those hurts and those resentments and those wounds of the past.
Today, we all take one step forward in letting go of those things that we will allow you to bring us freedom and to restore us. Jesus, there is no sin that you cannot forgive. There is no wound that you cannot heal. So come one, come with your power. Come with your gentle whispering voice that speaks into the silence of our hearts, and that speaks into our lives. To to bring us freedom and to bring us truth, that we might receive that healing, that we might receive that release, that you might love us in a new and tender way, and that we might find the gift of life that you alone can offer. Come, O Lord, just come and restore. Come and renew. Come and allow us to be connected more deeply to you and to find our peace in connection with one another. We bring these prayers through the beautiful intercession of our Blessed Mother. Glory be to the father and to the son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Isolation & Reconnection
Mark 1:40-45 whispers a message of hope resonating deeply in our post-pandemic world, where isolation etched its scars on millions. In this passage, a leper approaches Jesus, embodying the experience of many during lockdowns – ostracized, unseen, yearning for connection. His plea, “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” echoes the collective longing for healing, not just physical, but also emotional and spiritual.
The leper’s isolation was amplified by the social stigma surrounding his disease. Leprosy, then incurable, relegated him to the margins, forced to live outside the village, cry out “Unclean!” as a warning. Similarly, lockdowns shut us indoors, creating physical and emotional distance. We missed gatherings, touch, and the comfort of community. The leper’s cry could easily be our own: “If you are willing, can you reconnect me? Can I be clean, accepted, whole again?”
Jesus’ response is profound. Though “indignant,” not at the disease, but at the societal injustice inflicted on the man, he reaches out and touches him, defying cultural norms and declaring, “I am willing.” This simple act embodies God’s radical love, transcending barriers and reaching into the isolated abyss. In a world where social distancing became the norm, Jesus bridges the gap with a touch, reminding us that God’s desire is not to abandon us but to draw near, regardless of our perceived uncleanliness or marginalization.
The healing is instantaneous. “The leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.” This outward healing symbolizes the inner restoration we all crave. Just as the pandemic stripped away normalcy, exposing vulnerabilities and anxieties, Christ offers healing for those hidden wounds. He speaks to the brokenness within, whispering, “I am willing. Be whole.”
However, the story takes a curious turn. Jesus instructs the healed man to remain silent, show himself to the priest, and offer sacrifices. This instruction can be interpreted in different ways. Some see it as a requirement for official recognition and reintegration into society. Others view it as a symbolic act of gratitude and obedience.
However, in the context of our reflection, it can also symbolize the process of internal cleansing. The priest might represent spiritual guidance, while the sacrifices represent personal reflection and letting go of the negative emotions festering in isolation. Just as the healed leper needed to go through this ritual, we too may need time for individual healing before fully reconnecting with the world.
But the man disobeys. He “went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.” This disobedience might seem disruptive, yet it reveals a deeper truth. The joy of healing is too powerful to contain. He cannot bear to remain silent about the transformative power he experienced. This reflects the human desire to share good news, to reconnect with others who may be suffering similarly.
The consequence of his actions is significant. Jesus can no longer enter town openly. This can be seen as a cautionary tale about the challenges of reintegration, where fear and suspicion might linger. However, it can also be interpreted as a testament to the ripple effect of healing. The man’s story attracts even more people to Jesus, highlighting the power of shared experiences and collective healing.
In a post-pandemic world, reconnection can be daunting. We carry the scars of isolation, anxieties, and uncertainties. Yet, Mark 1:40-45 offers a beacon of hope. Jesus stands with outstretched arms, declaring his willingness to heal – not just physical afflictions, but also the brokenness within.
His touch reminds us that we are not alone. The pandemic might have isolated us, but God’s love remains constant. And like the healed leper, we are called to share our stories, to offer hope and support to others who may be struggling. This sharing becomes a catalyst for collective healing, rebuilding connections, and creating a more inclusive and compassionate world.
The final line of the passage resonates deeply: “People came to him from every quarter.” This image signifies the transformative power of connection, reminding us that even in the aftermath of isolation, the human spirit yearns for community, and through shared experiences, we can rise stronger, bearing the marks of our struggles but also the hope of healing found in one another and in the unwavering love of God.